Shortened port hours hurt border traffic
Border residents feel impacts
Business has dropped off nearly 60% at Bootleggers Bar & Grill in Noonan without the Canadian traffic that owner Debbie Glasoe used to be able to depend on. Her business is not the only one hurting because of shorter port of entry hours in North Dakota.
Sen. John Hoeven, R-ND, has been pressing U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials to resume normal operating hours at the northern border’s ports of entry. In the meantime, Hoeven secured a commitment from U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz to deploy a mobile surveillance tower in western North Dakota. His office reported Ortiz committed to work with the sheriffs of Burke, Divide and Renville counties to determine where and how the tower can best be utilized.
Earlier this month, Gov. Doug Burgum reiterated his request to CBP to restore pre-pandemic hours at 10 ports where daily operations were reduced by four to six hours.
Glasoe said the 5 p.m. closing of the Noonan port restricts some Canadians from coming and forces others to hurry back after making postal runs and fueling their vehicles. Local residents fear CBP may not want to ever restore the 10 p.m. closing.
“I am hugely upset because they said they weren’t going to change the hours. They promised when they shut them down when COVID hit that the hours would be recalled,” Glasoe said.
Travis Binde, Divide County Extension agent in Crosby, said the shortened hours at Noonan impact his father’s grain trucking business into Canada. The number of daily trips is limited by port hours and often results in higher fuel costs due to a longer trip through Portal at the end of the day, he said. Meanwhile, farmers wait longer to get their grain hauled.
Dan Folske, Burke County Extension agent, Bowbells, said early port closure impacts farmers who may need equipment parts after hours. This spring, the bar in Northgate, which attracted significant Canadian traffic in the past, closed.
Michelle Eide, manager of New Century Ag in Noonan, said the impact is likely felt even in Minot as Canadians shorten their stays to make it across the border before it closes.
“Traffic definitely is down,” she said. “The sad part is we come to be friends with a lot of them and we are wondering how they are doing because you never get to see them.”
The impact is felt on both sides of the border. Glasoe said Canadian pool teams and softball players no longer can participate in activities in North Dakota unless they drive the extra distance to the 24-hour port at Portal. Re-routing through Portal is more than a 60-mile trip between Noonan and Estevan, Saskatchewan, which is the largest nearby city for shoppers to pick up items not otherwise available in their local communities.
Binde said leisure travel to Estevan to visit the aquatic center, get automotive work done or enroll in dance lessons aren’t happening as they did in the past.
Shorter port hours have affected emergency response, added Folske, a member of the Bowbells fire and ambulance teams. He cited one case in which a Saskatchewan call about a shop fire near Northgate was picked up by a North Dakota cell tower, prompting the paging of the Bowbells crews. Because it was after 5 p.m., CBP had to send an officer from Portal to Northgate to open the Northgate port, delaying response as the shop became engulfed in flames.
Hoeven outlined the ongoing impacts of limited port hours on local residents and businesses, agriculture producers and commercial haulers in calling on the CBP to restore pre-pandemic hours of operation.
“Trade and travel between the U.S. and Canada is essential to the economies of northern border states, including North Dakota,” Hoeven said in a release. “The limited hours at northern ports of entry force travelers to go far out of their way in order to cross the border, not only costing significant time and money, but also worsening the supply chain constraints facing our nation. That’s why we continue to press CBP to resume pre-pandemic hours at North Dakota’s ports of entry, while also working to secure the resources that border professionals and local law enforcement need to be successful in their jobs.”